In case you weren't aware, rape culture is a real thing. It's an "environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture," according to Marshall University's Women's Center. That "environment" is pretty much the whole world.
Yet, some people choose to take a "seeing is believing" approach to rape and rape culture, and assume because they don't know anyone who has been sexually assaulted (to their knowledge) and don't believe that anyone they know would make excuses for sexual assault, that rape culture doesn't actually exist.
This is the argument made by high school teacher David Lickey, who allegedly sent a paper explaining his views on rape culture — mainly that it isn't real — to a group of freshmen students.
Not able to get the letter off of her mind, Moskowitz — who is a survivor of rape — made a video response taking down her former teacher's argument.
"Sentence number one," she says. "'Rape culture is theoretical construct that is ill-defined. I don't see it in my life or in the lives of any the men and women I've known.'"
Moskowitz destroys this argument with the simple fact that feminist theorists have been writing about and discussing rape culture since at least the 1970s. "Have you read any feminist literature?" she asks (and we're willing to be the answer is no.) She points Lickey toward the likes of Audre Lorde, Catharine MacKinnon, and Jessica Valenti.
"I am a survivor of rape," she continues. "I can name five of my dearest friends off the top of my head who are survivors of rape and just because you don't see it, doesn't mean it's not real."
Lickey asserts in his letter that the men he knows wouldn't hesitate to convict a rapist, Moskowitz says, but studies show that many men, most likely including those who Lickey knows, probably wouldn't convict a rapist. Only 0.6% of rape cases ever lead to the rapist spending time in jail, Moskowitz says.
While different studies have found different numbers in the percentage of rape cases that lead to a conviction, according to the Central Minnesota Sexual Assault Center it's about 6%, it's indisputable that the number is abysmally low.
Moskowitz continues to break down Lickey's argument with statistics and anecdote, in a 14-minute-long video that illustrates how friends, family, neighbors, teachers, and the criminal justice system continually fail sexual assault survivors.
Everything that goes into the ways survivors are failed — victim blaming, a culture that favors men, a lack of education about consent, etc — make up rape culture. It allows some men to believe that women belong to them, that they're deserving of women's affection simply for being nice to us, and that women's "pussies" are up for grabs.
Unfortunately, men (and people of all genders) who feel the way Lickey does aren't rare — they're just usually not as vocal about it. Moskowitz's video will hopefully help to combat Lickey's argument, at least for the students from her former high school, if not for people all over the country.
"Well composed and thought out," one parent wrote in response to her video. "As the father of one of the freshmen, I will be sure that your video helps my son and his class disarm and decompose this letter. It has certainly given me much to think about personally as well, so thank you."
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
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